BY VANESSA MWANGA
On the 24th November 2017, entire Zimbabwean cities ground to a halt. The crowds were gathered in the streets, around televisions and radio sets, waiting in nervous anticipation for the beginning of the impeachment parliamentary session. An explosion of cheers and blaring car horns erupted as the Speaker of Parliament unexpectedly delivered President Robert Mugabe’s resignation speech, signalling the end of an era.
The man who once delivered a message of hope and prosperity on the day of independence from colonial rule (18 April 1980), became a vicious despot whose legacy is marred by corruption, violence and a long string of human rights violations. As Mugabe tightened his tyrannical grip, the country that once was the breadbasket of Africa, descended into deep a political and economic crisis.
Many would agree that President Robert Mugabes’ overdue ousting was brought about by none other than his wife, Grace Mugabe (appropriately nicknamed “Gucci Grace” for her love of high-end fashion brands). Grace had formed her own faction within the ZANU-PF party, known as Generation 40 (G40), in a bid to be her husbands’ successor- establishing a Mugabe dynasty. Her attempted grab at power was met with opposition from the “Lacoste” faction of the party, which was led by Emmerson Mnangagwa (nicknamed “The Crocodile”) and largely comprised of military personnel. After constant provocation, ranging from bullying to poisoning at a party dinner and eventually being forced to flee the country, “The Crocodile” snapped its jaw shut around “Gucci Grace” and dragged her to her demise.
President Emmerson Mnangangwa’s past is less than pristine, however, having served as Mugabe’s right-hand man for over 40 years, he proved himself to be a ruthless, calculating, skilful politician with a strong business acumen. During his first two months in office, Mnangagwa has been hitting all the right notes, establishing himself as a capable leader.
The people have been promised an election this coming September, a bid for Mnangagwa to legitimise his presidency with a constitutional mandate after the “coup”. Unlike past elections held in the country, foreign observers have been invited to ensure that the process is “free and fair”. Alarmingly, accusations of voter intimidation in the more rural parts of Zimbabwe have already started surfacing. Are these accusations true, or simply baseless attempts at smearing Mnangagwa?
The current government main goal is to resuscitate the economy. Speaking at various platforms, locally and internationally, Mnangagwa has declared Zimbabwe open for business. There have been strong hints at repealing the Indigenisation Act which prohibits foreign investors from owning more than 40% of local businesses, however, diamond and platinum mining will remain capped. The mining industry is owned and controlled by the corrupt military generals who use thuggish and violent means to exploit impoverished citizens in order to line their own pockets. It comes as no great surprise that most of these generals are in the inner sanctum of Mnangagwa’s government.
Zimbabwe’s agriculture industry collapsed when Mugabe began his “land reclamation” process, violently seizing land from the White farmers. The farms now lie derelict as the people who took over have no farming knowledge, experience and/or capital. The government has said that White farmers who lost their land will be compensated and is trying to invite those who were displaced back into the country. It is unimaginable that those who were lucky to escape with their lives would so as much entertain the idea of returning after the horrors they faced.
President Mnangagwa is actively trying to repair all bonds that were broken during Mugabe’s era. By reaching out to the international community, he has left many Zimbabwean citizens optimistic for the future. Considering the deep-seated roots of corruption within his government and the part he played in the decline of the country, it would be wise to have a healthy dose of pessimism. Is this a counter-revolution for the old guard to reassert their power? Or the second independence the people of Zimbabwe have long yearned for? – only time will tell.